Samarinda, East Kalimantan. The East Kalimantan administration says it is making progress in eradicating the worst forms of child labor, but acknowledges that many minors continue to be exploited in the informal mining sector.
Retno Pudi Hastuti, head of occupational health at the provincial manpower office, said on Monday that it was still common to find children working in hazardous conditions because of the need to earn money for their impoverished families.
She added her office had recorded at least 520 children working in the informal, and unregulated, gold mining sector.
“In principal, we agree that all components of society must work to ensure a healthy, safe and enjoyable environment for children to grow up in,” Retno said.
However, she went on, the reality on the ground was that many children continued to be employed and often exploited as domestic workers, in the production of toxic, hazardous or explosive materials in mines and in construction.
She said more needed to be done to enforce the protections prescribed under the 2002 Child Protection Law, including systematic efforts to clamp down on these dangerous jobs and the establishment of regional child protection committees to serve as watchdogs.
“This doesn’t mean that those under the age of 18 years should not be allowed to work,” Retno said.
“It’s about being able to identify them as child workers and ensure that they don’t work more than three hours a day.”
She added that her office was also working with education officials on training programs to give children who dropped out of school for economic reasons a chance to finish their education.
Indonesia has ratified the International Labor Organization’s Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor.
The convention obliges the government to end all forms of slavery involving children, including trafficking and bonded or forced labor. It also calls for an end to child sexual exploitation and forms of work that are likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.
In its Trafficking in Persons Report 2012, released last month, the US State Department noted that children in Indonesia “are trafficked internally and abroad primarily for domestic servitude, forced prostitution and work in cottage industries.”
“An estimated 60 percent of children under five years of age do not have official birth certificates, putting them at higher risk of trafficking,” it added.
Retno said the East Kalimantan administration was working hard to end the worst forms of child labor, including by urging companies not to employ minors in hazardous jobs, and by finding ways to fund their education to keep them in school.
She called on district and municipal administrations in the province to also do more by monitoring the use of children in dangerous or otherwise unsuitable jobs.